Anti-Common Core Speaker Disallowed from Speaking on Church Property

Wow. Has it really come to this? To dissent on Common Core gets you banned from using Church property?

An event established to discuss the Common Core curriculum and its role in Catholic schools has been barred from a parish after the Superintendent of Schools of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee discouraged them from hosting the event.

The Milwaukee chapter of Catholics United for the Faith was forced to reschedule their upcoming lecture “Common Core: Dangers and Threats to Catholic Identity” with Dr. Duke Pesta, an English professor at the University of Wisconsin in Oshkosh and a former Catholic high school teacher, from a parish hall to a nearby hotel.

The event was originally scheduled to take place on November 17th at St. John the Evangelist's Church Hall in Wisconsin, according to the flyer from Catholics United for the Faith.

But, A.P. Szews, President of St. Gregory's VII Chapter of Catholics United for the Faith, received a phone call alerting him that the event could not be held on parish property any longer because of Dr. Pesta’s involvement.

Pesta, who is one of the foremost critics of the Common Core curriculum, testified against Common Core in at a public hearing in Wisconsin and has been outspoken about the dangers of the new curriculum to Catholic identity. He even recently appeared on the Drew Mariani show on Relevant Radio to discuss this issue.

Szews called the archdiocese shortly receiving word that the event was banned from using the parish hall and received a response from Kathleen A. Cepelka, Ph.D., Superintendent of Schools for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, via email.

Cepelka wrote that while she has no direct authority over the parish she did say she had been asked about the event with Dr. Pesta. She wrote, “I discouraged having him speak at St. John’s because it’s my understanding that he has shared views in other places which are contrary to the good faith efforts of St. John the Evangelist School and the entire Archdiocesan Schools program which attempts to provide the strongest academic program possible for our students.”

Szews told me he was stunned that just questioning the Common Core curriculum was sufficient to get an event barred from a parish. “There is no dogma or doctrine involved here,” he said. “This is about the powers that be not wanting people to make up their minds based on the facts that Dr. Pesta is going to present.”

Dr. Pesta told me, “Without being hyperbolic it’s borderline Inquisitorial.”

“In her email she makes the argument that whether or not Common Core is good or bad, to argue against it is against their good faith efforts and therefore not permitted,” he said. “She’s not willing to let parishioners make up their minds for themselves.”

Cepelka was quoted in the archdiocese’s Catholic Herald saying that the archdiocese is working to align courses in Catholic schools with the Common Core State Standards.

“What Common Core involves is developing thinking skills in students. There is no dictation at all of content or curriculum,” she reportedly said. “Common Core is a set of benchmarks or goals we would want any student who graduates from our schools to develop.”

Julie Wolf, the communications director for the archdiocese, confirmed to me that the CUF’s presentation was scheduled at the parish but the principal of the parish school contacted Cepelka and asked for her “advice and input.”

“Typically those decisions are made at the parish level,” said Wolf. “We don’t mandate what the parishes or schools do but sometimes people come to her for advice.”

It was shortly after Cepelka shared her advice that the event was cancelled.

The CUF was forced to attempt to get the word out late about the change in venue to a nearby hotel. “Maybe this is what the good Lord had planned all along,” said Szews. “Sometimes the Lord just wants to see if you can make lemonade out of lemons.”

Calls to St. John the Evangelist parish were not returned.



  1. Yet another result, I'm afraid, of the woeful mediocrity of the Ordinary of Milwaukee, Jerome Listecki.

    With prelates like Weakland, Dolan and now Listecki we must assume that Rome has it in for Milwaukee for some reason.

  2. Common Core doesn't boost critical thinking, not from what I have seen implemented in my kids' Catholic school. It, at best, increases vocabulary. At worst, it teaches children that whoever yells the loudest and most creatively wins and that there is no absolute truth, but everything is relative (see 5 as a correct answer to 2+2).

  3. I am a teacher at a public school whose assistant principal began giving talks and workshops on Common Core three years ago, when the standards first began being public. The teachers at my school and district have been asked ad nauseam to give input about what same, different, what we like and what we DON'T LIKE about Common Core so that the district was best prepared with how to roll out the standards starting this year. There are people, including teachers, who aren't crazy about Common Core still, and when we voice our angst with the standards - privately or publically - we are heard by our administrators respectfully and without prejudice. Personally, I don't have too many issues with the standards, as much as I do the assessments produced by a third party called Smarter Balanced which will be used to assess the students' learning of the standards. Teachers will need to devote as much time and effort to teachings students how to take the computer-based assessments as they will teach the standards. But, I digress...

    What strikes me most about stories like these is that the officials of the diocese are acting as if they have it all figured out. My school district sits at the heart of Silicon Valley, and you find very few educators around here who are carrying on with such a presumptuous attitude, as if not only do they have it all figured out that Common Core will be helpful, but so much so that stifling others' voices who disagree is also helpful. It actually makes Catholic education seem close-minded in a way, coming from a position as I am in an education system where people are very far from proposing that we have Common Core all figured out yet...

  4. Common Core is a Trojan Horse. Now, that the archdiocese has opened the gate, the SWAT teams in full riot gear will enter without necessary warrants to ensure that the mention of God is not heard, so that atheism can peacefully co-exist with Catholicism...and communism can peacefully co-exist with nation under Common Core Communism.
    George Bell: With teachers confused and unenlightened, any interpretation of Common Core may be imposed upon the school, public or private, depending upon the whim of those in power. Basically, if 2 plus 2 equals 5, any error may be imposed and not anyone, not even the Pope, will have any say in the upbringing of the souls in his care. Nefarious.

  5. Mary De Voe: Many educators would love to use the Common Core as an opportunity to resurrect the fuzzy math movement, but those like the woman who was filmed saying that it doesn't matter if 4x3=13 as long as the student can explain the answer, are actually misrepresenting the standards. The Common Core standards do place more emphasis on being able to explain one's answer as most standards did previously, but students who still get the numerical operation incorrect would still not be performing according to how the standards are written. Have you read any of the standards? Here is a link to the standards for third grade operations and algebraic thinking ( ), which I link because one can see in Standard Content 3 OA. B. 5 that as far as basic multiplication operations are concerned, i.e., 4x3=13, a student does need to know the actual answers to basic multiplication operations, and that knowing the answer is actually a prerequisite for being able to perform according to the standard, i.e., a student could not show the associative and distributive properties without having the actual multipliers and products to work with and interchange. And, with regard to your 2+2=5 example, as you can see with the First Grade operations standards, if a student were to perform as such, they would not performing according to the standards ( ).

    This is not to say that some educators are not going to try and hijack Common Core, much like Vatican II was hijacked, to try and teach something Common Core does not even propose. Such educators will be doing their students a disservice, since the makers of the statewide assessments will not be in those teachers' classrooms, but rather will be creating the assessments in alignment to the standards, not the instruction of such educators. And, my prediction is that we will very soon see a pendulum shift to a more traditional style of instruction if such educators do start trying to resurrect fuzzy math on students, because students who receive such instruction will do incredibly poorly on the statewide assessments, it being the case, again, that the statewide assessments will be aligned to the standards and not to the hijacking teachers' instruction.

    And, in defense of "confused and unenlightened" teachers, I would say that teachers who are familiar with the Common Core standards are far more enlightened than those who have not even bothered reading the standards, but who insist that 2+2=5 would now be acceptable under Common Core.

  6. It would have been helpful to have seen the actual quote from the letter re: “In her email she makes the argument that whether or not Common Core is good or bad, to argue against it is against their good faith efforts and therefore not permitted,” he said.

    However, common sense dictates that Catholic Schools cannot cooperate with B&M Gates' Common Core. This is the same soul selling going on with CCHD and CRS and other (not-so-very Catholic Universities for example) such evils continuing to infiltrate the Roman Catholic Church in the U.S.

    There are a few exceptional schools that I pray continue to grow strong and profoundly impact what Catholic education (for the young through college level) is. I was not fortunate to receive it, but fortunate enough for my children to attend The Lyceum School. Now, through them, I read Augustine, Aquinas, etc, and I am growing in knowing, loving and serving the Lord.

    There are a few exceptional schools that I pray continue to grow strong and profoundly impact what Catholic education (for the young through college level) is. I was not fortunate to receive it, but fortunate enough for my children to attend The Lyceum School. Now, through them, I read Augustine, Aquinas, etc.

    Common core equals low standards and is totally unworthy of being considered in any Catholic education. Catholic education needs to look to the Great Books in order to form our children in the Faith and in Goodness, Beauty, and Truth.

  7. What's wrong with having a hearing about what's wrong with Catholic education before rushing into Common Core? Or was there a reason other than the supposed insufficiency o Catholic education that Common Core is being accepted? I'm confused.

  8. "Without being hyperbolic it’s borderline Inquisitorial"...I'm glad Pesta teaches English and not history.
    The archdiocese is right to ban him from speaking. His demagogic reaction to his speaking engagement being re-located is evidence that his reaction to Common Core might be demagogic as well.


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